Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) is a policy enacted under President Clinton’s watch that bans lesbian and gay servicemembers from serving openly in the Armed Forces. The policy requires lesbian and gay servicemembers to lie about their sexual identity and about their families. More than 14,000 servicemembers have been discharged under DADT since it was enacted in 1994. It disproportionately targets women of color, and requires poor LGBT youth to make a choice between economic opportunity and living honestly.
President Obama has promised repeatedly to overturn the policy. In his State of the Union address in January of 2010, he committed to work with Congress to overturn the ban this year. Although a stand-alone bill has been introduced in the Senate to repeal DADT, there is no political will or incentive to pass the bill. President Obama knows that there is only one sure strategy to repeal DADT this year: include the repeal in this year’s Defense Authorization Budget.
On March 18 two gay veterans, Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo, chained themselves to the White House fence to demand the immediate repeal of the policy. The Obama Administration was silent for the next month, so they returned on April 19 with four other servicemembers – Petty Officer Larry Whitt, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, Cadet Mara Boyd, and Cpl. Evelyn Thomas. The six servicemembers chained themselves to the White House to again demand immediate repeal of DADT.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs walked through Lafayette Park during the protest. Activists chased him, demanding answers on when and how DADT will be repealed, and whether President Obama would stand by his word. During a press conference two days later, Gibbs stated that the Administration will not push for a repeal of DADT before December of this year. This directly contradicts the promise President Obama made during his State of the Union address.
We are currently calling on President Obama to clarify his intentions while keeping up the pressure for immediate repeal. Join us by taking action and calling on President Obama to stand by his word to repeal DADT this year.
It is also important to understand that repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will not end discrimination based on gender identity. We have a long struggle ahead to achieve full equality in military service for the entire LGBT community.